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Australia's cricketers are bracing themselves for a hostile reception when their tour of South Africa begins later this month, with opener Matthew Hayden predicting they would see "Skippy hung up by the neck" before the trip was over.
But Hayden, referring to the iconic kangaroo often used as an Australian mascot, said the Aussies would be unlikely to report any abuse to authorities, as the South African players had done during their current tour here.
"We'll see Skippy hung up by the neck a couple of times and we'll have a chuckle at it ourselves and that's all part of it," Hayden told reporters. "I think the general nature of Australians is to just get on and play.
"We also acknowledge the fact that we are professional athletes and it's ridiculous to get into anything that is too extravagant with regards to banter amongst the crowd. We'll expect to cop it ... and we'll cop it sweet."
Darren Lehmann, who was banned for a racial slur in 2002-03, said in the Advertiser the players should prepare for a big reception in South Africa. "If our crowds have been doing that, it's wrong for a start," Lehmann said. "What will happen is there will be a big backlash in South Africa. They will treat our players pretty harshly and cruelly when we play there."
The International Cricket Council has announced that it will send India's solicitor general, Goolam Vahanvati, to Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka from this month to compile a report on racism. The move follows a formal complaint by the United Cricket Board of South Africa that some of their players had been racially abused by sections of the crowd during their current tour of Australia.
Cricket Australia has called for lifetime bans for supporters found guilty of racial abuse. The veteran Australian players Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne said they expected a tough time from South African fans, but that was always the case and they had never had problems with racism there.
But all the players said they hoped the racism would stop with the ICC's investigation and agreed it had no place in sport or society. "You expect to cop a bit wherever you go," McGrath said. "In the past there hasn't been any racism or any racist comments that I've seen. I'm expecting a tough time, as we get everywhere we go, but racism hasn't been a problem before."
Warne predicted South African fans would "nail us and rip into us" but Hayden said they would try not to let any taunts or remarks affect them. "This [racism] is a criminal offence," he said. "It's not something that's part of a sporting arena."
The South Africans have threatened to boycott future tours of Australia if the racist comments do not stop and captain Graeme Smith has backed the ICC's hardline approach to "keep the game clean".